But almost the only thing that hasn’t been refreshed by Apple has been the Airs’ CPU, or core processor. The new MacBook Airs still use the same Intel Core 2 Duos from the last generation, which is odd given that the line is refreshed in every other respect. And this especially considering the fact that Intel, Apple’s CPU supplier, has put a lot of weight behind its new line of Arrandale processors, which are precisely intended for the kind of lightweight, netbook type of computers like the new MacBook Airs.
Not to put too much of a fine point on it, but the only logical explanation for this is that Apple thinks Intel’s Arrandale sucks.
Apple has its own line of lightweight, power-sipping, integrated chips, the A4, which it uses on the iPad. But new versions that could power a full Mac probably aren’t ready yet. So Apple has to come out with MacBook Airs that are new in every respect except for CPUs that Ars Technica calls “geriatric.”
This is seriously bad news for Intel not just because Apple snubbed them, but because the future of the chip industry and of Intel lies in those small, lightweight processors. Right now Intel makes powerhouse chips for PCs where it can reap high margins through vertical integration and sheer technological superiority. But all of the growth is in small, lightweight chips for small, lightweight devices like smartphones and tablets, where margins are thinner and the focus is more on power consumption than raw performance.
In this market, Intel is nowhere and is getting its lunch eaten by ARM Holdings. Intel is trying very hard to push into this market with new lines of chips, but so far it’s having only limited success. Apple’s snub doesn’t help.